Toulouse is a city in southwest France on the banks of the Garonne River, half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The Toulouse metropolitan area is the fifth-largest in France and the fastest growing in Europe.
Toulouse is one of the centre of the European aerospace industry, with the headquarters of Airbus, Galileo positioning system, the SPOT satellite system, and CNES's Toulouse Space Center (CST), the largest space center in Europe.
Thales Alenia Space, Europe's largest satellite manufacturer, and EADS Astrium Satellites, EADS's satellite system subsidiary, also have a significant presence in Toulouse.
Its world-known university is one of the oldest in Europe (founded in 1229) and, with more than 120,000 students, is the third largest university campus of France after Paris and Lyon.
Toulouse was the capital of the former province of Languedoc (provinces were abolished during the French Revolution). It is now the capital of the Midi-Pyrénées région, the largest région in metropolitan France. It is also the préfecture (capital) of the Haute-Garonne département.
HISTORY OF TOULOUSE
Born during the Roman Empire, Toulouse was once a major metropolis of western Europe, but it sank into a sleepy regional-level status in the 18th and 19th centuries, completely missing the Industrial Revolution. In the 20th century, relocation of key military and aerospace industries in Toulouse by the French central government have awakened the city again.
In an ironic twist of history, what was once a big liability for Toulouse has now become its best asset: no Industrial Revolution meant a falling economic status for the city, but it has spared Toulouse the environmental damages and painful socio-economic restructuring that are plaguing so many northern European industrial cities.
Benefiting from its status as Europe's capital of aerospace industry, as well as from the flow of population from the industrial belt to the sunbelt of Europe, Toulouse metropolitan area doubled its population between 1960 and 2000 (in the meantime the population of France increased only by 30%). With good prospects for aerospace and biotech industries, growth is likely to continue in the near future.
Toulouse is thus recovering step by step its former rank as a major European metropolis, but it faces increasing challenges: how to accommodate such a rapid growth, how to upgrade transport and develop housing and infrastructures, in short how to reinvent the city in the 21st century.
CULTURE OF TOULOUSE
Toulouse, known as the Ville Rose ("Pink City") for its distinctive brick architecture, is host to a rich and diverse culture. It has a thriving scene of unusually beautiful graffitis, with the painter Miss Van at its forefront.
Toulouse was the home of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944), most famous for his book Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince). There is a permanent gallery with numerous photos, and some of his works, located in the Hotel du Grand Balcon - just off the Place du Capitole - where he stayed. (The Bohemian painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec lived in Paris and shared only his name with Toulouse).
It is the seat of the Académie des Jeux Floraux, the equivalent of the French Academy for the Occitan-speaking regions of southern France, making Toulouse the unofficial capital of Occitan culture. The traditional Occitan cross was adopted as the symbol of both the City of Toulouse and the newly-founded Midi-Pyrénées région.
The city's gastronomic specialties include Saucisses de Toulouse, a type of herb sausage, cassoulet Toulousain, a bean and pork stew, and garbure, a cabbage soup with poultry. Also, foie gras, the liver of an overfed duck or goose, is a delicacy mainly made in the Midi-Pyrénées.
SPORT IN TOULOUSE
In sports, Toulouse boasts a highly respected rugby union team, Stade Toulousain, which has been a four-time finalist, three-time winner in Europe's top club competition in the sport, the Heineken Cup and 16 times French champions. Toulouse is considered an epicentre for rugby union, and the city hosted games at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
The city also has a football (soccer) team in Toulouse FC and a rugby league team, Toulouse Olympique, who has won the French championship on four occasions. The city also hosted games during the 1998 FIFA World Cup, and the EuroBasket 1999.
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Location of Toulouse, in France